Dem hopeful: Context explains ‘muzzle’ quote

Morlino knocks GOP for


Staff Writer

Steve Morlino of Howell, a Democratic candidate running for a three-year seat on the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders, claims he has been victimized by a Republican machine that “can’t run their candidates on their record so they resort to distortion and lies.”

Morlino was referring to a flier that has been mailed throughout Monmouth County and featured in newspaper advertisements that attribute the content to the Monmouth County Republicans.

Morlino and Jeffrey Pringle are running against Republicans Amy Handlin and Matawan Mayor Rob Clifton. Handlin is presently a member of the all-Republican freeholders board. Election Day is Nov. 2.

In the GOP campaign piece, Morlino is charged with stating at a 1998 Howell public meeting that some “women should be muzzled.”

Morlino said the Republicans’ account that he made the “maybe some women should be muzzled” remark because a woman was trying to inquire about a proposed dog ordinance was deliberately distorted for political gain by opponents who knew they were pushing a hot button.

A reporter’s call to the treasurer listed on the Republican campaign piece was directed to Dan Gallic, Warren Township. Gallic said he was asked to speak on behalf of the Republican treasurer identified on the piece, identifying himself as campaign manager for the Monmouth County Republican candidates.

Gallic said the information used in the mailed fliers and newspaper advertisements was taken from official minutes of the meeting at which Morlino made the remark. He defended using the remark and said it was a “peek at his (Morlino’s) soul.”

Gallic said the fact that Morlino made the remark because he was angered by the heckling he was receiving from two women attending the meeting was telling and “not a trivial point.”

“It was not all that long ago that women were not allowed to own property, let alone vote,” Gallic said, adding that Morlino’s remark “goes back to a very deep-seated belief in some people that women can’t handle public affairs.”

In comments to a reporter, Morlino said he wants it firmly understood that his statement was directed to “two women who were acting rudely and heckling me while I, who had been gentlemen enough to let them speak, was trying to get my remarks on the record.”

Morlino said the issue under discussion at the 1998 meeting was whether or not to enact legislation that would force dogs to wear muzzles in public. He said it is true that he turned to the women and said “maybe some women should be muzzled.” He said he was referring directly to the two particular individuals who were heckling him as he tried to speak.

“It was never my intent to belittle or denigrate women in general,” Morlino said.

He said the two women heckling him were prominent members of the municipal and county Republican organization.

Morlino noted that the remark was made while he was a private citizen active in the Democratic party, but well before he became involved in politics as a candidate.

He said he wants it noted that he takes responsibility for making the comment, but only in the context in which it was stated.

While admitting the remark is being used now to hurt him politically, observing, “I probably shouldn’t have allowed myself to be baited,” Morlino sticks to his guns in saying the remark was “not inappropriate in the context it was spoken.”

Morlino said he has already offered a public apology to anyone who “felt offended because they misunderstood what I had actually said.”

Calling the depiction by the Republicans part of a campaign of “distortion and lies,” Morlino said it was the GOP who erred by spreading a “malicious distortion” of something that occurred six years ago.

Morlino said Gallic’s explanation that the basis for the campaign literature denouncing Morlino for the remark was culled from official minutes of the public meeting at Howell town hall proves the Republicans’ account of the incident is based on “second-hand distortions.”

Said Morlino, “They’re reflecting on paraphrased minutes taken out of context and using them to spread a false and malicious lie about me.”

According to Morlino, what actually occurred was that he was being heckled by the two women who were trying to prevent him from speaking on the issue of a proposal for a dog muzzling ordinance which he, as a private citizen, was speaking out against.